You know you need more and better sleep. Lack of quality sleep has been linked to a scary number of serious ailments such as heart disease, immune disorders, high blood pressure and diabetes. It has also been shown to worsen, and in some cases be the cause of, chronic mood disorders like depression, anxiety and mania. If you're reading this article, you also know that chemicals and pharmaceuticals are not the best way to get better sleep as they come with health risks of their own.
There are a variety of healthy, natural ways to increase the amount and quality of your sleep. All of these methods will also help with the chronic stress that so many people are dealing with today. Since unresolved stress is often the causation of things like disturbed sleep and insomnia, this is definitely a win-win scenario. Grab a cup of tea, get comfy and take a look at these healthy techniques that may help you get the quality sleep you're craving.
Herbal mixtures have been used for centuries all over the world to effectively deal with a wide range of health conditions. Even the mainstream medical community has begun to recognize the power of herbal remedies to treat various illnesses. An herbal approach to better sleep could be as simple as a cup of chamomile tea before bed or as complex as an herbal tincture targeted at your specific issues. If you choose to try herbal remedies, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider. Herbs are powerful and can have serious interactions with medications you may be taking.
Beyond herbals, several other natural substances have been used to successfully improve sleep. Products such as melatonin and GABA are naturally occurring substances that some have used to help with sleep issues. Again, you should check with your doctor to be sure that no medications you are taking or health issues you might have would make these supplements unsuitable for you.
CBD is a substance that is gaining a lot of attention right now. CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the hundreds of compounds found in both cannabis and hemp plants. It is important to note that although CBD is one component of marijuana, it is not the compound that causes you to get high, that would be THC. Since CBD can be derived from both cannabis and hemp, it is a legal substance in most states, even those states that have not legalized medical marijuana.
CBD has been touted as a solution for a whole host of problems, but it has gained widespread recognition as a valid solution for both anxiety and insomnia. You can take CBD in a variety of ways including orally as oil, inhaling it as vapor or, if you prefer not to ingest or inhale, you can use something topical like a CBD hand cream. CBD works by affecting serotonin levels so may not be appropriate if you are taking an SSRI or other medications that impact serotonin.
Mindfulness meditation has its roots in Eastern religion but is a completely secular activity. It is practiced by followers of many religions and by those who do not follow a religion at all. It is a clinically recognized tool for stress reduction and is used by many mental health practitioners to address depression, anxiety, and panic disorders.
Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment and observing your thoughts and emotions without judgment or engagement. Over time, regular use of mindfulness will foster feelings of calm, curiosity and compassion. If you are interested in learning more about this simple technique, resources are everywhere. You can purchase books or videos on the subject, download an app for your phone or watch one of the many introductory videos on youtube to check it out.
This is one of the simplest techniques you can use to reduce stress and help you get to sleep. Paced breathing is as elementary as it sounds. It is the process of breathing at a slow steady pace for a set amount of time. It can be done wherever you are, no special equipment required. This basic activity has been shown to calm the fight or flight response and to activate the vagus nerve which signals the body and mind to relax. When done repeatedly over a period of time, paced breathing has the ability to alter your instinctive response to stress so that you actually process it differently.
Some practitioners suggest adding a positive affirmation to your paced breathing, others say that a particular interval of breathing is most helpful. However you approach it, it appears that the adage "just breathe" has some pretty powerful results. It can be a little tricky to relax and make sure you're breathing at a particular pace, but there are basic phone apps that will help you count your breath intervals and give you a visual to focus on at the same time. Paced breathing requires so little effort on your part, there's really no excuse not to give it a go.
EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Technique, and tapping refers to the practice of using your fingers to gently tap on a series of meridian or pressure points. Compared to some of the other methods like using herbals or mindfulness, tapping is a relatively new process that came into public view in the mid-1990s. However, like acupuncture and acupressure, it has its roots in ancient Chinese medicine.
Like paced breathing, tapping is incredibly simple to learn. There are only 9 tapping points. Once you know their location, you're ready to tap. There are books available on the subject if you want to learn more, as well as a couple of fantastic paid phone apps. The concept is that if you tap on certain meridian points while simultaneously thinking or talking about negative emotions, you can effectively rewire your brain to process those emotions in a healthier way. Proponents of the technique report using it not only to gain stress relief and sleep assistance but to clear emotional trauma and phobias. Given its ease of use and the potential for results, this is another option that is definitely worth a try.
Knowing, as you do, the harmful effects of sleep deprivation and stress, and knowing the dangers of many pharmaceutical solutions, you owe it to yourself to try these healthier alternatives. Outside of the alternative medicines and supplements, none of these techniques require any financial commitment or are known to cause significant harm. Many have benefits that have been empirically validated not to mention thousands of enthusiastic practitioners who report amazing results. Learning these methods may require a bit of time and effort on your part, but if the result is improved sleep and reduced stress, it seems a small price to pay.